Hope for a people braver and stronger and more God-fearing for the long years of sacrifice and sorrow

A special Christmas letter from Mrs Willink offered kindly advice to the members of Burghfield Mothers’ Union.

Hillfields, Xmas 1917

Dear [blank]

In these days when the shadow of war and suffering and death seems constantly with us, the good wishes for a joyful Christmas seem almost out of place. But I feel I must send a little message of affection and friendship to my dear members of the Mothers’ Union.
I say to you all be of good courage, and may God give you that inward happiness and serenity which surely comes to those who live near him. May He fill our hearts with light and peace, so that if sorrow or loss or accident come to us we may bear them unshaken and accept them as if they were straws on the tide of life.

Bless our absent ones, keep them in life, keep them in growing honour; and, for us, grant that we may be worthy of their love. We civilians at home for whom there are no supreme moments of daring and sacrifice can yet constantly keep our courage at a high level. It has been said that victory is ultimately won, not by the troops in action, but by the spirit of the nation behind them.

We who stay at home have the duty of preserving, for those who are fighting, that heritage for which they are laying down their lives.
Dear wives and mothers, let it be your work to keep your homes sweet and clean, so that when the men and the lads come back, they may find that best happiness, a home of love and welcome ready for them. This can only be done by some self-sacrifice now; food is short, and it will grow shorter, and it is only by strict economy and thought and trouble that the food difficulty can be met, try and buy as many substitutes as you can for bread, meat and sugar, and take pains in cooking them, and you will be helping the War. You are such clever housewives that I am sure you will be able to do so.

I should also like to say especially to the Mothers’ Union members, that they should at this time do all in their power to help and influence others outside the Union, by little acts of kindness and sympathy, and by such example as can shew those others what our Union stands for, and try and persuade them to think seriously as to what it means, and perhaps in time to join it.

“In quietness and confidence shall be your strength,” and may the Christmas message of glad tidings give us that strength to work – and be patient, and kind, and helpful, and self-forgetful in the New Year that is coming, and then we may hope that the blessing of peace will return, and find a people braver and stronger and more God-fearing for the long years of sacrifice and sorrow.

Believe me always

Your true friend
Mary G Willink

Special Christmas letter inserted in and probably distributed with the January 1918 parish magazine, Burghfield (D/EX725/4)

Parcels for prisoners

Women in Earley gave money for comforts for British PoWs sd erll as practicing economy at home in support of the war effort.


March 25th, the feast of the Annunciation, fell on a Saturday this year, and the annual service and enrolment was held in church on the afternoon of that day… Canon Trotter very kindly came and gave a most helpful address. Speaking on Home Influence and the Force of Example, he made a special point of economy which should be much in our minds just now, and that each one of us should try in some way to practise it.

The collection, which was for the Prisoners’ Parcel Fund, realised 17/5, and two more six shilling ones were at once sent off. Durman and Dann, the two prisoners who received those sent in February, have written thanking the Mothers’ Union for thinking of them, and saying how very grateful they are.

The Corporate Communion was held on the 26th at 8 am, and again quite a big number of mothers were present. The vicar kindly allows us to have the collection at this service, which this year amounted to 15/-. Mrs Dunlop proposes to send 10/- of it to the Women’s Fund for Disabled Soldiers and Sailors.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, May 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/5)

The horrors of this war will lead the nations back to God

Windsor women who belonged to the Anglican Mothers’ Union were invited to a lecture on the war.

The Mothers’ Union

Mrs Bosanquet very kindly invited a meeting of Mothers’ Union workers to the Bank House on February 7th, when the Hon Lady Acland have a very beautiful and thoughtful address on “Some Lessons of the War”.

It is impossible, she said, to explain the reason for the permission of evil in the world: to reconcile God’s love with the horrors of this war. It cannot be done in logical terms: our only way is to look for the good through all the pain and suffering; to realise that they lead to the glory of Sacrifice. And it is certain that these are a great purifying force, leading the nations back to God: for they all, with the one great exception of Russia, had fallen away from God during the years of peace…

Prayer and Sacrifice – they are the duty of us all. God accepts the sacrifice our men are making, and He will accept that of our girls, too, for whom life will be a more serious, and in many ways a harder, thing than ever before. Through all the sorrows and the changes the truths of God stand fast, like the Crucifixes of which we read, that remain unharmed in the battlefields of Flanders.

New Windsor St John the Baptist parish magazines, March 1916 (D/P149/28A/21/1)

Parcels for prisoners

Women in Earley decided to contribute to the sending of food and home comforts to British soldiers taken prisoner.


A Meeting was held in the Parish Hall on January 28th, when about sixty members were present….

It was … agreed that all members who cared to should subscribe some small sum each month, ranging from one penny to sixpence, and the amount given to a fund for providing parcels for our prisoners in Germany; Mrs Jordan kindly undertook to arrange that two should be sent off at once, eleven shillings and sevenpence having been subscribed.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, March 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/1)

Wait, work and pray at ‘the base’ while loved ones fight

Many of the women who belonged to Theale Mothers’ Union, a church-based group, were enduring the anxiety of having a husband or son at the Front. The May issue of the parish magazine announced a special meeting to address their special concerns:

Arrangements will be made, it is hoped, for a meeting of the members of our Branch on Thursday, May 20th. A short Service will be held in Church, with an address by the Rectory, at 3.30 p.m., to be followed by Tea in the Parish Room. Due notice will be given in Church, and by the District Visitors to the members individually. A Meeting for Prayer is particularly called for now that the husbands and sons of so many members are serving their King and Country, and in peril in the War.

Ezra East, of Calcot … Army Service Corps.
The Rector will be glad to receive further names.

The following month reported on the success of this meeting:

The members of the Mothers’ Union, and the wives and mothers of all in the parish serving their King and Country, were invited to a Service in the Parish Church on Thursday, May 20th, at 3.30 p.m. The congregation numbered about 50. After the Whitsuntide Collect, the Mothers’ Union Prayer, etc. Psalm 91 was said, and was followed by the special Lesson, Romans VIII, 19 to 28. In his address the Rector said that the sacredness of Marriage was the root-principle of the Mothers’ Union, and the bond that united families, when our sailors and soldiers had gone forth to do their duty to their King and Country. Their wives and mothers were at ‘the base,’ where they had to wait and work and pray.

The Rector besought them in times of anxiety and depression not to regret that they had let their husbands and sons go forth, but to let the consciousness that they had done right comfort them, and hearten them to bear any sacrifice. They had also done their best for them. It was true of many a one who had responded to the high call, that it had made a man of him, it had made a Christian of him, it had made a hero of him. In this time of trial and anxiety may all seek the help of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.

The names on the Roll of Honour, to the number of 67, were read out. Hymns 207 and 595 were sung, and a collection was made for the County Red Cross Society, amounting to £1 1s 6d. A receipt for this sum has been received from Mr. Haviland, Hon. Treasurer. After the service, those present were entertained at tea in the Parish Room, for which arrangements had kindly been made by Mrs. Snelling, Mrs. Forrester, Mrs. Rudd and Mrs. Charles Blatch, assisted at the tea itself by Mrs. Walford, Miss Bunce, Mrs. Angel-Smith and other ladies.

Theale parish magazines, May and June 1915 (D/P132B/28A/4)

Defenders of the “inner line” at home

The ladies of St Agnes’ Church, Clewer, were among those hard at work using their sewing skills to support the troops and help out the Belgian refugees in Berkshire. The parish magazine reported in November:

Twenty-four shirts for our soldiers have been made by members of the congregation, and the “Mothers” have also made several garments for the Belgian Refugees. There is still some material which could be used for the Belgian Refugees; and, although at the time of writing I am told that no more shirts can be had for the present, we hope that by the time this magazine is out there will be plenty for those who are willing to make them.

The following extract from “The Watchword” is much to the point:-

The Inner Fighting Line

Behind the roaring cannon, behind the flashing steel,
The defenders of the Inner Line, steady and constant kneel:
Some young, some grey or crippled, some three-score years and ten,
Just praying, always praying, for the Front Line fighting men.

These cannot lead a sortie, nor breast the ocean’s foam,
But their fervent prayers, as incense, rise from church and cottage home:
The poor man and the wealthy, all make the Inner Line,
Wherein a common sorrow forms a brotherhood divine.

You can hear their voices quiver, you can see the slow tears fall,
Yet the Inner Line keeps steady, England and honour call:
They pray, and who can measure such prayers’ resistless might?
They trust the Lord of Battles Who will defend the right.

Clewer St Andrew parish magazine, November 1914 (D/P39/28A/9)

Women’s work in Burghfield

The November issue of the Burghfield parish magazine reported several instances of local women’s work sewing and knitting clothes and other necessaries for the troops. The long-established Mothers’ Union, a religious and social meeting for women associated with the Anglican parish church, was supplemented by working parties dedicated to the work:

A box of 12 warm socks was given to Mrs Benyon for the sailors, and another parcel of shirts, bedsocks, bandages, nightshirts, and some blankets was sent to the Depot in Reading. Socks and scarves are now being knitted.

It has been suggested that, by reason of the grave and serious outlook at the present time, and of the widespread sorrow and anxiety throughout the land, the usual autumn meeting should take the form of a service in Church. The Rector, therefore, proposes to hold a special Service of Prayer and Intercession, and to give an address on “Woman’s Part in the War”, on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 15th, at 3 o’clock. All members of the Mothers’ Union are earnestly requested to attend.

Mrs Willink hopes to hold her Mothers’ Meeting and Knitting Party, for the benefit of our soldiers, every Friday thoughout the winter at Hillfields, from 2.30 to 4 o’clock.

The special Mothers’ Union service proved successful, as the following month’s magazine confirms:

We were very pleased to see such a good number of members at our Intercession Service on Sunday Nov. 15th. The Rector gave a most interesting and helpful address on “Woman’s part in war”. Several of our members have a husband or son or brother now serving their King and Country, and he urged upon them and upon all the importance of courage, hope and endurance during these sad and anxious days.

Burghfield parish magazine, November and December 1914 (D/EX725/3)

The Bible and the War

A women’s group in Hare Hatch listened to a lecture on the Bible and the war.

Hare Hatch Notes
The Mothers’ Union Meeting on November 4th was very well attended. Mrs Cust gave a capital address, her subject, “The Bible and the War,” attracted great attention. It is evident from what she said a good impression was made, which should have lasting results.

Wargrave parish magazine, December 1914 (D/P145/28A/31)

Scouts and rotters

The vicar of Cranbourne asked why the country was at war, while saluting the young men who had volunteered to serve.

Why are we at war? The answer may be given in the words of Scripture “for righteousness sake.” The Empire is at war
(1) For the sanctity of treaties.
(2) For the support of friends wrongfully assailed.
(3) For the defence of the weak.
(4) For the cause of peace.

Our task is to break the curse which for more than a generation has been blighting civilisation, – the curse of military oppression which has arrested progress, poisoned morality, sucked the life out of religion, and made a mock of every human ideal. This is well put in a short poem by Mr. James Rhoades.

Not for passion or for power,
Clean of hands, and calm of soul,
England at this awful hour
Bids her battle-thunders roll.
That crown’d arrogance may quail
And brute-force be backward hurled –
Lest the hypocrite prevail,
Lest a lie should win the world;
Lest she see the trustful weak
Trampled on by perjured strong –
That her arm may help to wreak
Justice on red-handed wrong,
Till the hierophants of fear
Cease, beneath the darkened sun,
To boom out in Europe’s ear
To grim gospel of the gun.
So, to meet you myriad host
As we muster land by land,
Witness Heaven- no braggart boast-
That for righteousness we stand!
In the dread impending hour
Heedful of that warning word,
“‘Not by my might, and not by power- By My Spirit’ saith the Lord.”